25 February 2021, The Tablet

Jim Wallis, the outsider’s outsider

The Tablet Interview

Jim Wallis, the outsider’s outsider

Jim Wallis


The Evangelical preacher who is a leading voice on the religious left says that the idol of white supremacy underpins conservative Catholicism in the United States as well as the conservative Protestant Churches

Part way through my interview with Jim Wallis, founder of the social ­justice organisation Sojourners, peace activist, racial justice campaigner and Evangelical preacher, we break off to ­compare our pictures of Dorothy Day. Mine, a woodcut icon, sits behind me on my bookshelf in London; his, a picture on his office wall in Washington DC. Looking away from the camera at this wall, out of shot, he lists the other members of his “family of faith” who are pictured there: “Thomas Merton, of course; Dom Hélder Câmara, of course; Pope Francis, of course ... Daniel Berrigan, Bill Stringfellow, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mother Jones …”

He says “of course”, but this is perhaps not the family of faith you might expect to ­surround one of the best-known and most influential Protestant theologians and authors in the United States. But Jim Wallis is not your average American Evangelical: raised in a conservative church in the Midwest, he was radicalised both by the ongoing racial segregation of the 1950s and 1960s and by Matthew 25, describing Jesus’ self-­identification in the Gospel with “the least of these” as his conversion text.

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